News

Palin and Fey and Blackwell, oh my

Barry Koltnow
The Orange County Register (MCT)

I know your attention is elsewhere.

There is an important election coming up. The stock market is in free fall, and the fate of your pension, your children's education and your next Vegas trip are in question. There are two wars being fought in your name on foreign soil. The nation is bitterly divided into two camps. New rounds of layoffs and plant closings are announced every day.

And yet, Hollywood continues along its merry way, seemingly undeterred by the events that shape the real world.

Professor Barrywood is nothing, if not helpful, and he would like to fill you in on what happened of note during the last week. You have better things to lose sleep over, and I'm sure you didn't keep up with the latest entertainment news. Who has time to watch "Entertainment Tonight" when one can sit in front of the television for hours watching cable news shows and their omnipresent graphs depicting the downward spiral of the world's economy?

That's OK. That's what we're here for, to keep you informed of all the Hollywood news. Some of it is trivial, as you might expect, but some of it is actually important.

Here are the show business headlines of the past week:

1. Sarah Palin meets her doppelganger on "Saturday Night Live" - Emmy-winner Tina Fey has been making national news (which, at times, can be as silly as entertainment news) with her weekly impersonation of the Republican vice-presidential nominee. Gov. Palin had no choice but to go on the show and prove that she has a sense of humor. Richard Nixon did it on "Laugh-In." Even Palin's running mate, John McCain, decided to face the music and make an appearance on David Letterman's show after ducking out of a previous commitment to be David's guest. Anyway, Palin came through the experience relatively unscathed (depending on which political pundit you listen to) and showed not only an ability to make fun of herself, but to keep a beat. The show enjoyed its biggest ratings in 14 years. Right after the show, Palin flew out of New York City and arrived somewhere in "the real America."

2. Mr. Blackwell dies - For those of you who are too young to remember, there was a time when only one person had the guts to criticize how the rich and famous were dressing. Now, of course, you can't swing Joan Rivers' daughter over your head without hitting a fashion critic. It seems that every TV show has someone on the payroll whose entire job is to critique celebrities on the red carpet. But, back in the day, Mr. Blackwell, who once was an actor and fashion designer of little note, became a celebrity in his own right by mocking other celebrities. His annual list of the worst-dressed celebrities was anxiously awaited. These days, one need only wait another 24-hour news cycle to hear a report from the fashion police. Mr. Blackwell, who was 86, may have been annoying, but he was an original.

3. "W." underwhelms at the box office - Who knew that Oliver Stone was still making movies? His latest, starring Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Banks as the first couple, got better reviews than expected, but the wisdom of making a movie about a sitting president with the lowest approval ratings in decades has to be questioned. The movie made less than $11 million its opening weekend, and industry observers don't expect it to have "legs." There are unconfirmed reports that Stone has scrapped plans to make a film about Dick Cheney.

4. Parents stock up on ear plugs and Valium - That's right, Disney's "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" is upon us, and parents know exactly where they'll be spending the weekend. There was a time when parents could simply turn on the Disney Channel and hide in another room, leaving the kids to scream and squeal to their heart's content. Now, the studio has forced families to leave the house by releasing the film in theaters.

5. Levi Stubbs dies - The lead singer of Motown's Four Tops passed away at the age of 72. I could spent multiple columns marveling over the singer's magnificent baritone voice, but what I would like to mention is that Stubbs was that rare pop singer, and even rarer Motown performer, to resist the temptation (just a little pun) of leaving the group that made him famous and going out on his own. He stayed with the group for nearly 50 years. The name was never changed to Levi Stubbs and the Four Tops, and for that he should be celebrated. The group's members, who met in high school, included Stubbs, Renaldo Benson, Lawrence Payton and Abdul "Duke" Fakir. Payton died in 1997; Benson in 2005. Among their hits were: "Reach Out," "I Can't Help Myself" and "Standing in the Shadows of Love."

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